I love poetry’s capacity to express so much so concisely, a quality it shares with the visual arts. Pairing words with images can have a power and impact stronger than either the words or the image have on their own. I know this from experience both as a viewer and creator. Much of my work over the last couple of decades has combined text with images such that they complement and provide a context for each other, resulting in a more compelling, and emotionally-involving experience than text or images standing alone. For “The Art of Poetry in San Francisco,” my proposal is to use photographic imagery which is poetic in and of itself, and combine it with a given poem to evoke, amplify, and interpret the poem or elements of the poem, with emphasis not on the literal, but on the emotional. For the pieces that would not be accompanied by a poem, I would create poetic photographic imagery that evokes San Francisco, the Bay Area, and the beauty of life itself. All of my work is about beauty. For work that is to be displayed on Muni buses, where people are often tired, commuting to and from work, and immersed in the stresses of city life, it’s especially important to offer the public work that can lift spirits and that reminds passengers of the beauty all around us.
Matthew O’Brien’s work celebrates humanity and the natural world. Born and raised in the Bay Area, he studied zoology at U.C. Berkeley. His understanding of animals and the natural world informs his view of humanity and his photography. He has photographed around the world, exploring different subjects and situations, but always with one unifying theme—beauty. Past projects include Back to the Ranch
, his exploration of one of the oldest ranching communities in the United States, across the bay from San Francisco, and its demise due to urbanization, and Looking For Hope
, a collaborative study of growing up in the inner city and the public school experience in Oakland, where he taught for several years. Among the awards he has received are a Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography Award, a Community Heritage Grant from the California Council for the Humanities, and a Fulbright Fellowship.